Anthony has called on the Government to support his campaign to raise wages for local NHS staff.
This is part of his campaign to extend the ‘High Cost Area Supplement’ (HCAS) system, that increases NHS basic pay in areas where the cost of living is higher, to cover NHS workers in South Cambridgeshire and Cambridge City. This follows discussions with local NHS staff and employers, including Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the East of England Ambulance Service.
In his question to the Prime Minister, Anthony asked the Government to ensure that NHS workers in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire are paid fairly, noting discrepancies in the current HCAS system. The Prime Minister noted Anthony's championing of Addenbrookes and said he hoped the The NHS Pay Review Body, the advisory board that advises on the pay of NHS staff, would “listen carefully” to the comments.
HCAS payments split high-cost areas into ‘Inner London’, ‘Outer London’ and ‘Fringe’ zones. In Inner London, all NHS workers get an extra 20% to cover the cost of living, in Outer London they get 15%, and in “Fringe” areas, which include Royston, NHS workers get up to five per cent more in their pay packet, on top of any long-term recruitment and retention premiums they already enjoy.
In practice, an NHS worker renting a studio apartment in a ‘fringe’ area like Basildon or Surrey Heath will get 5% more in salary but spend on average 14% less on rent than a worker in South Cambridgeshire. In Cambridge City, average rents in the city exceed those in every single ‘Fringe’ area, and in one in four of the ‘Outer London’ areas too. NHS staff in Croydon, Sutton, Barking, Redbridge and Bexley enjoy lower rents than NHS staff in Cambridge but get 15% higher pay. Rents in Gravesham are 25% less than rents in Cambridge, yet NHS staff get paid 5% more.
Commenting after Prime Minister’s Questions, Anthony added: “Whether or not the HCAS areas reflected local cost of living when they were devised, they definitely do not in 2022. The brutal fact is that the cost of living is higher in Cambridge and South Cambridge than many other areas getting these high cost of living pay supplements. It is manifestly unfair on NHS workers and will directly impact on patient care if it is not addressed quickly.
“As the whole country is gripped by the cost-of-living crisis, our health workers in Cambridge and South Cambs will struggle more than colleagues almost anywhere else. This must change. NHS staff in Cambridge and South Cambs must get pay supplements to reflect the cost of living here, in a way that does not impact existing NHS Trust budgets.”
Dr Mike More, Chairman of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, commented: “The high cost of living in and around Cambridge is a significant issue for many local health and care workers. Increasingly, it presents a major challenge in being able to recruit and retain the staff we need to provide excellent patient care. We will continue to work with our partners to explore ways to address this and we welcome the debate on the potential funding of a high cost living allowance for local NHS workers.”
Nicola Scrivings, Chair of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust said: “Like many healthcare workers, our people – from paramedics to 999 call handlers and everyone in between – often work difficult, unsocial hours so we can provide 24 hour help to those who need it. That means they need to live close to where they are based – and for those living around Cambridge we know the huge impact the recent increase in the cost of living has had.
“All of us at the East of England Ambulance Service fully support measures to improve the pay of NHS workers who must live in high-cost areas like Cambridge.”